Advice for Autonomous Cars

Drivers for Uber and Lyft in San Francisco express their concerns and advice for self-driving taxi services.

2 minute read

August 16, 2023, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

View from rear of white Waymo autonomous taxi van in Mountain View, California

Sundry Photography / Adobe Stock

In an interview for WIRED with 10 ride-hailing app drivers in San Francisco, Aarian Marshall and Caitlin Harrington gathered some advice to the newly minted robot drivers set to expand their presence on city streets. “Some was friendly, some not at all.”

For one, drivers say it’s sometimes necessary to ‘fudge’ the rules of the road, which robotaxis are programmed not to do (at least, not on purpose). “Rideshare passengers are spoiled,” said one driver. And having passengers run to the middle of the street to get picked up may not be safe. “When forced to choose between briefly blocking a driveway (technically a ticketable offense) and loading passengers in the middle of traffic, he’ll sometimes opt for the former.”

Drivers also wondered how autonomous cars will deal with situations when inebriated passengers soil the upholstery or fall asleep in the vehicle. “Cruise has a cleaning fee policy and charges up to $150 for ‘extensive liquid and smelly messes,’ including vomit. Waymo spokesperson Ilina says (human) workers use cameras inside the company's vehicles to determine if a cleaning is needed before or after rides, and that robotaxis are always cleaned when they return to home base for charging or maintenance.”

Other concerns include the unpredictability of city streets and the need for customer service. It remains to be seen if self-driving cars will be able to adapt to real city streets or if their limitations will render them less effective than human drivers. And while some drivers worry about the loss of income, others are looking for the next opportunity. “Some who know this is coming simply shrug—several ride-hail drivers told WIRED that they think the jobs have become too crappy to fight for, because earnings have declined over the years and there’s no reward for sticking around.”

Monday, August 14, 2023 in Wired

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